There is no room for surprises when footballers travel. Everything needs to be carefully planned and thought out in order to allow the players to focus on future matches. National team manager Lennart Wangel from the Football Association of Finland explains how the team travels.
(Picture (c): Suomen Palloliitto)
The football team is usually an entourage of around 35 people. Out of these, 23 are players, while the rest are coaches and other supporting personnel. Since nearly all of the players play on foreign teams, the first challenge is to get them all to the destination from around the world. This is where SMT steps in and finds the best connecting flights for the players.
Even the small things matter when the team travels as a group and with a lot of luggage. - I study the destinations in advance, as we cannot afford any surprises, Lennart Wangel describes. As the manager of the team, he follows the players to 10–12 international matches per year. He has experience in the field since 1988 and cooperates closely with SMT.
- For example, I study the airport lobby. It is important that it has enough large luggage trolleys for the entire team. We routinely travel with around thirty parcels full of additional items. We bring our own balls, medical supplies, clothes for practice and other occasions as well as other necessary items. In Azerbaijan, we even had our own chef and brought all of our own food with us. The chef bought the necessary frying pans in advance, Lennart laughs.
The hotel also matters. It is imperative that the hotel is used to hosting sports teams. - In order to simplify communication, the team must be placed on the same floor and in adjacent rooms. The treatment personnel, such as masseuses and physiotherapists, require a large room in order to fit their treatment tables. The restaurant must offer a suitable menu and separate dining facilities for the team. In Finland, the menu for the team was designed by the chef of Kalastajatorppa, Lennart mentions. - A quiet environment for the hotel and an overall flexibility are also important in order to allow the team to focus on the matches.
Despite the good planning and cooperation with SMT, not everything will always go according to plan.
- Our cooperation with the travel agency is excellent, Lennart says. - Plan B may sometimes be required in an emergency, but there is always a solution available. We have never had to cancel a practice due to travel problems, even though the match schedules are sometimes very tight. Last time, we were travelling from Wroclaw in Poland to Oslo via Frankfurt when our flight was delayed and we missed our connection. We were flexibly switched to a direct low-fare flight to Torp airport in Oslo, where a bus had been quickly arranged to take us to the city. The alternative would have been to spend the night in Frankfurt.
How do the players spend their time on the flights? - This is very easy in the modern world. The players have laptop computers and they listen to music or read books. They are quite used to spending time at the destinations and different games are popular, for example.